New immigration rules announced

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The government has published a white paper outlining the new immigration system that will take effect once the UK leaves the European Union. These new rules put an emphasis on skills rather than country of origin, and are designed to end free movement and to bring net migration down to a sustainable level.

Described as the biggest shake-up of immigration policy for forty years, the document describes a system that no longer distinguishes between EU and non-EU citizens, with a more streamlined, digitally recorded system that applies to any and all migrant workers wishing to enter the UK.

The paper, entitled “The UK’s future skills-based immigration system” lays out key changes in the following areas which, as stated, will apply to all workers wishing to enter the UK:

  • Low-Skilled workers: These workers will now need to apply for a one-year visa that enables them to work but will not carry entitlements to access public funds or rights to extend a stay, switch to other routes, bring dependants or lead to permanent settlement.

    This non-sponsored route is intended to be a transitional scheme to enable UK businesses that are reliant on such workers to adjust their employment practices to the new rules.

  • Medium/High-Skilled workers: There will still need to be sponsored, however there will no longer be a cap on the numbers of these workers that may be permitted entry to the UK - nor will employers of skilled migrants be required to carry out a resident labour market test as a condition of sponsoring a worker.

    The £30,000 minimum payment threshold will remain in place, however in recognition of the various skilled jobs, including nursing for example, that are historically paid less than this, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) have advised that the current Shortage Occupation List is retained and reviewed in spring 2019.

  • Students: No limits are to be placed on the number of international students wishing to come to the UK, however they will need to obtain permission before arrival. The exception to this will be non-visa nationals, who can be granted entry as a short-term student for a course up to six months without permission to travel – as is currently the case.

    Students who have completed their degree and wish to remain within the UK to work will be offered six months leave to find permanent skilled work. This will be extended to one year for those who have completed a PhD. Students studying at bachelor’s level or higher will be able to move into the skilled workers route up to three months before the completion of their education, and for those outside the UK, for a period of two years after graduation.

The new system is to be processed entirely digitally, in theory eventually removing the need for the several different forms of immigration documentation that are currently in circulation. This format is intended to work in a very similar manner to the Employer Checking Service that is currently in place for certain non-EEA nationals, however this is unlikely to affect the current documentation that is already in circulation.

These new immigration rules will only come into force once the UK has not only completed its withdrawal from the EU, but also when Parliament changes the current laws, revoking the retained EU laws that currently control migration.

To read the entire whitepaper as published, please click here.